Last Friday I jumped on a Eurostar from London to Lille. (Side note: Did you know that it’s quicker to get to France than it is to Yorkshire? I find that so bizarre.)
The Post Office sent me to explore the city, and report back on how I think you can save money when you’re on holiday. They’ve just published their 2017 City Costs Barometer which is a super handy visual guide to the price of various European city breaks.
Paphos in Cyprus is the cheapest city this year, and (in a turn of events that will surprise absolutely no-one) Reykjavik in Iceland is the most expensive. But there are a LOT of cities that are somewhere in between. Including Lille.
My little sister is currently working in a village on the French coast, teaching English to adorable French children, so I took her along with me for the weekend.
And here’s what we got up to!
WHERE WE STAYED IN LILLE
We stayed at the Flandres Appart Hôtel, just a quick ten minute walk from Lille Europe station, and right in the centre of town, which saved us a lot of money on public transport.
Check-in was super easy, as there were no keys to hand over. Everything works with access codes, which I’d already been sent via text by the owner.
It cost around £90 a night for a double room, which is pretty average I think. And it was LOVELY.
Our room was on the top floor, and had the most amazing views. It was very clean, and I loved the decor: all grey and white walls, with wooden floors and yellow accents.
AND, to top it all off, I found a raclette cheese grill in the airing cupboard.
So basically: the hotel room of my dreams.
THE QUIET STREETS OF LILLE
I’m a massive geek about architecture, and Lille did not disappoint!
We got up early on Saturday and set off about 9am to find breakfast. After a quick pain au chocolat (did you know Paul, the bakery, was founded in Lille?), we headed out into the streets, marvelling at how quiet everything was.
Lille is a student city, which meant we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves for the first couple of hours. (Which was perfect for me because I took about seventy billion photos and didn’t have to wait for people to move out of my shot… BLISSFUL.)
By about midday though, things had started to pick up. And by two o’clock, the main streets were absolutely rammed with people. We attempted a bit of afternoon shopping, but gave up in the end and retreated to the safety of a sunny bar for a glass of wine instead!
LE JARDIN VAUBIN
Ches recommended this spot and it turned out to be a great call!
We were so lucky with the sunshine, and it was absolutely perfect weather for a stroll in the gardens near the Old Town. We found a gorgeous little grotto, tucked away down a little path, with a waterfall and moss-covered rocks, and spent a lovely half hour prancing about there.
Then we wandered back, past flowerbeds and statues, cyclists and prams, and even a proper group of old French men sat on a bench wearing berets and gossiping.
It was très jolie and I’d definitely recommend it if you want a break from the city streets!
THE OLD STOCK EXCHANGE
La Vieille Bourse is one of Lille’s most gorgeous buildings. It’s huge, and in the centre of all the beautiful architecture, you’ll find the inner courtyard.
Back in the 17th century, this was the centre of all merchant trading in the city. Nowadays, it’s a really cool market with stalls selling second-hand books, vintage prints, posters, and even old newspapers!
I think it’s probably busier during the week, as there were a lot of stalls not open when we popped in on Saturday afternoon. But it’s still definitely worth a visit.
PALAIS DES BEAUX-ARTS
Also known as: the Fine Arts Museum. It’s considered one of the best museums in France, second only to the Louvre, so it was high on my list of things to see.
The building itself is gorgeous, but it’s currently being refurbished, and doesn’t have a cafe or anywhere to sit down for a bit (which made me whine, because by this point my FitBit was already logging 17,000 steps…). But what it lacks in comfort, it more than makes up for in artwork.
We saw paintings by Goya, Picasso, and van Dyck. There are statues and vases, and a really odd gallery with bright pink walls that made me feel a bit dizzy.
Definitely worth a visit if you’ve got the time. Entrance is cheaper for under-25s as well!
THE BELFRY THAT NEVER WAS
OK so here’s what happened.
We really wanted to climb the Belfry. I’d done my research on Pinterest, and the one thing everyone kept recommending was the Belfry. The views are meant to be incredible (and we all know how I feel about pretty views from up high), it didn’t sound too expensive, and Ches was up for it as well.
Great!, we said. Let’s climb the Belfry, we said.
Except we couldn’t find the entrance. And when I say we couldn’t find it, I mean we walked around the whole building about three times. We Googled it, and three different pages said to look for an unmarked wooden door. Nope. So we asked one of the waiters in a bar: “I didn’t even know you could climb it.”
At which point we gave up and (you guessed it) retreated to the safety of a sunny bar for a glass of wine instead.
I loved Lille.
It’s such a beautiful city, with the perfect balance of fun things to do, interesting things to see, and a peaceful vibe that doesn’t make you feel guilty if you just want to sit down and people-watch.
Plus, it’s only an hour and a half away from London. And, of course, the food is amazing.
I was actually going to combine food and sightseeing in one post, but I’m already over 1000 words so I think I’m just going to leave it there for today!
If you’ve been keeping up with my Instagram Stories, then you know what’s coming. And if you haven’t been watching, then guys: you are in for a TREAT.
Let’s just say it involves a helluva lot of melted cheese…
*Our trip to Lille was sponsored by the Post Office.